But is it Really Art?

Chapter 7

Dawn couldn't sleep that night. She'd made sure that her window was shut, along with all the other doors and windows in the house, but she still wondered if spiders would attack her. She quivered at every sudden sound. Even the softest click made her gasp.

She also wondered about Amanda and Cassie.

She thought, If one of them is attacked and killed by a horde of spiders, that'll mean that she was the Slayer, and not me. Then they won't attack me.

She felt bad about thinking that way.

When she arrived at Sunnydale High the next morning, Dawn wasn't sure how she felt, when she saw Amanda in homeroom, acting no different than always, obviously unaware of what might happen to her.

Dawn thought, Her skin would be a tight fit.

The homeroom teacher Mrs. Brinkman was calling the roll.

She called out, "Cassie--?"

Amanda, who was seated on Dawn's left, raised her hand and spoke in a casual tone. "I heard she got killed last night. She was at home, alone in her own room. It happened sometime after midnight. She'd left her window open."

Dawn thought, Cassie's skin wouldn't fit as tight as Amanda's. I have to stop thinking this way.

Mrs. Brinkman asked, "Are you sure about that Amanda?"

The girl said, "Well that's what I've heard from some other people."

A few other students nodded and spoke in agreement.

A boy said, "That means that if she's been vamped, she'll be re-enrolling here for night classes, next Monday."

"Vamped?" Dawn leaned over and asked Amanda, "Wasn't she killed by a lot of big hairy spiders?

"Spiders?" Amanda snickered. "Where'd you get that idea?"

The boy said, "I heard about a woman who was found dead last night. She was covered all over with spider webs, and she'd been bitten to death by spiders. But that was in a back alley off Main Street, just behind that magic shop."

He told Dawn, "She wasn't Cassie."

Amanda said, "Then Cassie was killed by a vampire, as usually happens Dawn." She chuckled. "What else would you expect in Sunnydale?"

Right. Dawn thought, What else would I expect? Or who else? Who else? Had Xander shared a meal of Cassie's blood with Anya, as he'd suggested?

The Teacher said, "Now let this be a lesson to all of you. Don't forget to hang either a cross, along with a sprig of garlic in your window, if you're going to sleep with it open. If not, you may be joining Cassie, along your other undead classmates, who've begun attending night classes here at Sunnydale High; and also remember to be careful who you invite into your house."

After that morning's classes ended, Dawn headed for the Sunnydale High cafeteria. She stopped in the corridor, just outside the lunchroom, reached in her handbag, and took out her cell phone. She tapped out her home number, put the device to her ear, and waited.

Then she said, "Hi Buffy. This is Dawn."

Her big sister said, "Hi Dawny."

"Buffy." The girl spoke quietly. "Did you hear that Cassie was killed last night? By a vampire, not a swarm of spiders?"

"That's what I've been told. It was a routine vampire killing. Except that she wasn't vamped. She'll stay permanently dead, which is a good idea. One Slayer-Vampire in Sunnydale is enough."

Dawn asked. "Then she was killed just to keep her from becoming the next Slayer? But she hadn't actually become the next Slayer?"

"I have no actual knowledge about her killing Dawn, or the motive, beyond that of a vampire having a meal."

"Do you know who didn't vamp her?"

"Nobody's talking." The Slayer-Vampire told her, "But cheer up Dawn. Whoever it was, just might have kept those big, hairy supernatural spiders from crawling all over my little sister. I'm sure you wouldn't want that, would you?"

"No. Yuck! But what about Amanda?"

"Dawn." Buffy sighed. "Do you really have to ask?"

"But can't you at least wait 'til you know for sure, who the new Slayer is?"

"I can wait, 'cause I know I can handle whoever he is or she is, but most of the vamps in this town can't, and they don't want to take the risk."

"But Buffy."

"It'll be best for everybody concerned, Dawn."

"Except Amanda."

Buffy hung up.

Dawn switched off her cell phone, put it back in her handbag, and headed into the lunchroom.

Amanda was seated alone at one of the tables. The tall, thin girl wore a light blue dress. She sipped milk from a plastic container while looking naturally awkward and nonchalant; completely unaware that she'd probably be as dead as Cassie, before next morning's sunrise.

Dawn wondered, Should I warn her? If I do would I be betraying...

Forget that! Of course I'm gonna warn her!

Dawn came over to the table, where the potential slayer was eating lunch alone.

"Hi Amanda."

Her tall, thin classmate smiled, "Hi Dawn."

"Listen Amanda." Dawn lowered her voice. "I have something very important to tell you."

"Important? Did they find out about who..."

"No. Listen. You know about my Sister Buffy?"

"I know that she used to be the Vampire Slayer, until she met the vampire who got lucky. Now she's undead, and she's switched over to the vampires' side, as is to be expected. That's why there's been an increase in the number of Sunnydale High students who've enrolled in the night classes, over the last few weeks."

"Listen Amanda." Dawn sat down, across the table from her. "There are a lot of vampires in this town who want to kill you."

"Yeah. I know."

"You do?"

"They want to kill every girl in Sunnydale High. We're all on every vampire's menu, but that's something I can handle."

Buffy's sister asked cautiously, "How do you know you can 'handle' it?"

"I always hang a cross and a sprig of garlic around my neck, and another sprig and cross in my window. I never invite a stranger into the house, and I never go out at night alone. That's all anybody needs, isn't it?"

"Right. Normally, but I'm talking about certain vampires that I've heard about. They want to kill you, more than any other girl in Town."

"Me?" Amanda chuckled, "I thought that male vampires preferred girls who are a lot sexier than me, or at least have more juicy meat on them. You know, like Cassie or you." She giggled, "I hear it's a matter of 'penetration' and 'satisfying discharge of warm bodily fluid'."

"There's a lot more to this than bloodlust Amanda. You've been identified as a potential vampire slayer."

The girl gasped in horror. "Me?"

"Yeah girl. You." Dawn told her trembling classmate, "There's a very good chance that you'll be the one who's empowered any day now. That makes you target number one."

"'A good chance'? That means you don't know for sure."

"Whether or not anyone knows for sure, every vampire in town wants to make every potential Slayer on Earth permanently dead, as a pre-emptive strike."

Amanda spoke nervously, "Then I suppose that a cross and a sprig of garlic won't be enough to stop them, will they?"

"They would, but only temporarily, if they're really intent on killing you. Since they are intent, they won't be stopped, unless you really are the next slayer; and if you are, you'd better get empowered really quick."

The trembling girl said, "Then the best thing for me to do, is to go into hiding, until the vampires know who it is for sure."

"Sounds good." Dawn asked, "Do you have any idea where you'll go?"

"I know exactly," the girl spoke calmly, "and I've got enough sense, not to tell the sister of the Vampire Queen of Sunnydale, where I'm gonna be."

"Yeah. I understand that."

"Then understand this too." Amanda told her. "I'll wait 'til I've been informed that the new Slayer has been empowered. Once she is, your sister Buffy had better hope that the new Slayer isn't me."

Amanda stood up. She picked up her tray and headed toward the trash containers.

Dawn thought, You're the one who'd better hope that the new Slayer isn't you, Amanda. If you are, you'll be identified by the spiders.


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